British tobacco companies are colluding with smugglers to avoid tax by flooding European countries, MPs have warned.
Figures released by anti-smoking organisation Fresh suggest the illicit tobacco market in the North East had halved since the late 1990s.
Anti-smoking organisations today said the blackmarket trade in Newcastle had shrunk with less than one in 10 cigarettes bought on Tyneside found to be counterfeit.
A Conservative MP who is leading a rebellion against plans to introduce plain packaging for cigarettes is a former tobacco lobbyist and chairs a parliamentary group whose secretariat is provided by two tobacco industry-funded organisations.
The chairman of an influential House of Commons select committee investigating the tobacco trade hosted a parliamentary reception funded by a cigarette giant, the Observer has established.
Anti-smoking lobbyists have welcomed much-delayed government plans to introduce plain cigarette packaging.
Thousands of illegal cigarettes have been seized in St Helens as part of a campaign to tackle rogue traders.
Seven men have been jailed after HM Revenue and Customs smashed a £28million cigarette smuggling ring.
A FORMER greengrocer who turned to illegal cigarettes and alcohol as a more lucrative trade has been order to pay £216,500 within six months or serve a further two and-a-half jail sentence.